Reading for a Lifetime Together

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
April 5, 2010, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The story begins in 1964 when Dr. David Henry has to deliver his twins in the middle of a blizzard with the help of a nurse, Caroline Gill. He and his wife Norah are having their first child. The first child, is perfectly normal and they name him Paul. They soon realize though that Norah is about to have twins. The second baby, Phoebe has down syndrome and David decides that the baby should be placed in an institution to spare Norah of the pain of the death of a child. Caroline takes the baby to the institution, but after seeing the conditions, she decides to raise the baby herself and names it Phoebe. Her car battery dies and they are picked up a truck driver and taken back to Caroline’s house. Meanwhile, David tells his wife that the baby died at birth. David never lets her talk about the baby and Norah secretly posts an acknowledgment in the paper. Caroline sees it and after discussing with David about what she should do, she leaves with Phoebe for Pittsburgh to start over.

A year later Norah and David are growing apart and Norah wants another child, but David won’t let her. Norah becomes a drinker, but stops after she gets in a car crash and buys David a camera which he becomes obsessed with. Caroline and Phoebe live with a widow Dorothy “Doro” March, and take care of her father Leo, who was a brilliant doctor who has a failing mind. Doro notices Phoebe’s slow development and tells Caroline she has Down syndrome. Caroline lies and says she left Phoebe’s father because he wanted to put her away. Caroline sends pictures and letters to David of Phoebe and he sends them money. The truck driver, Al, figures out where they live and comes to visit them.

5 years later in 1970 Norah and David have grown even farther apart and David has become an aspiring photographer with his own darkroom, where he hid the letters and photos of Phoebe. Norah drinks in secret and throws herself into long time-consuming projects and becomes a travel agent to start her own life. Paul is oblivious and is a happy 6-year-old who can sing and play music, but has a sever allergy to bees and fell out of a tree and broke his arm. In Pittsburgh Phoebe is growing up healthy and happy and loves singing and butterflies. Her mom is petitioning for her to go to public school and they still live with Doro even though Leo died. Al still visits them and proposes to Caroline twice, but she refuses because she thinks he doesn’t love Phoebe. Then Phoebe was stung by a bee and they learn she is allergic to bees. They take her to the hospital and when a nurse comments on Phoebe’s condition and makes Caroline mad, Al steps in and Caroline realizes he does love Phoebe and she accepts his 3rd proposal.

It’s 1977 and the twins are 13. David wants to see Phoebe and let her meet her twin Paul. Phoebe goes missing though, but is found rescuing a kitten from a drain pipe. Caroline decides that David shouldn’t meet Phoebe because he might hurt her and it’s too late. Paul is a great musician now and dreams of going to Julliard. David and Norah grow even more apart and while on vacation Norah has an affair and David spends even more time in his darkroom alone.

In 1982 the twins turn 18 and David has an art show. Caroline shows up and shows him pictures of Phoebe. They are interrupted though and Caroline leaves. David is devastated and returns to his parent’s abandoned house to find a 16-year-old pregnant girl, Rosemary, living there. He tells her his secret and invites her to live with him. Paul runs away for a few days and he has been accepted into Julliard.

1988: Rosemary and her son Jack live with the family. Norah and David got a divorce and Paul is studying music in France. David dies of a heart attack and Norah goes through all his pictures and understands him a lot better. Phoebe wants to marry Robert, who also has Down Syndrome and live in an independent living house. Caroline hears about David’s death and tells Norah the truth. Paul and Norah finally meet Phoebe and the twins both go to their mother’s wedding and Paul takes Phoebe to their father’s grave.

Obviously by my extremely long post, I really liked this book. It is really fascinating and I really enjoyed it. I was so upset when David decided to get rid of Phoebe. It was heartbreaking. I couldn’t understand how a parent could just give away their child, even if they did have a mental problem. I also really love Caroline for taking in Phoebe and giving her a much better life than she would have had in an institution. This is a really great book and I love it! -Jorden Guldner


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